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24 Aug, 2008 22:48

Plane crash kills 68 in Kyrgyzstan

A passenger jet has crashed after take-off in Kyrgyzstan, killing 68 people. The Boeing 737 was on its way to Iran when it came down close to the capital Bishkek. Local authorities say 22 people survived, including the c

The pilot and crew survived and will be questioned by investigators. Early indications suggest the airplane suffered decompression shortly before the crash.

Ambulances transferred 18 injured people to hospital. Doctors say many suffered severe burns.

According to the Kyrgyz Emergency Ministry, the jet came down after taking off and then caught fire. Bishkek's authorities say the plane was carrying the republic's youth basketball team.

Earlier a spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Bishkek, Viktor Kharchenko, said that the Boeing 737-200, belonging to the private Kyrgyz airline Itek Air, was heading from Bishkek to Tehran.

“Several minutes after take off, apparently one of the plane’s engines malfunctioned. We don’t have the exact figure of the people on board yet. The reports vary from 83 to 123,” he said.    

So far there is no information about any Russians on board.

The Boeing 737 is a short to medium range jet. It's derived from larger Boeing models, but was originally designed as a smaller and lower cost airliner. It has become the most ordered and produced commercial passenger jet in the world.

Statistics suggest that on average, a Boeing 737 lands every five seconds.